The Ancient

The Ancient

An excerpt from Johnny Rockett: Enema at the Gates, by k.R. McClellan

The Ancient closed in on the green and blue planet.  He and his pilot in their two-seater scout ship, with the help of the object that guided them, were completing the first half of what was expected to be a twenty year-round trip.  The rich resources that the scanners had picked up would prove every worth every bit of the long travel time, and once they confirmed that the resources were accessible, and could bring back a few samples, they would be honored as heroes on their home planet.  They sent their findings back to their home world in a long-range transmission.

The ancient one, the warrior of the two, sat behind the younger pilot as they descended into the atmosphere.  The wings of the craft began to glow, and as they bled off speed the pilot began putting the ship through a series of maneuvers to slow the craft further to get it to a manageable speed for atmospheric flight.  The Ancient spoke to the pilot in a complex dialect, made possible by their split tongue which allowed them to use a vocabulary made up of several hundred characters, and a spoken language no one else could mimic.

The pilot responded to the Ancient’s commands and turned the ship to cross over the main body of land.  Finding a place to land would be difficult, as the entire continent seemed to be covered in trees.  They continued on for hours, until the pilot spotted a shallow plateau in the distance that seemed to be clear enough, and flat enough to land on.

Speeding towards the plateau, the Ancient scanned the area for indigenous creatures, and though there were some in the area, none were very big.  He gave the command to set the ship down.  The pilot complied.

The canopy opened, and the two aliens stepped out.  The pilot, smaller than the Ancient, shared the similar features of almost no neck, large shoulders, and a grayish skin.  The Ancient one carried a handheld weapon, and a case that carried instruments for determining the compounds underneath the surface.  He sat the gun down onto the ground and began setting up the equipment.  The pilot, holding a smaller weapon of his own, stood watch over the area as the Ancient worked.

The equipment began to whir and buzz and light up as it detected the prize ores the aliens desired.  What amounted to a smile came across the ancient’s face as he licked both lips at the same time with different parts of his tongue.

He spoke a short series of syllables that in themselves told volumes about what he had found.  The pilot showed his pleasure as well, raising both hands above his head and firing off a couple blasts from his handheld gun.  The sound echoed in the distance.

The Ancient got up and went back to the ship and pulled out another piece of equipment.  This one, as the Ancient set it on the ground, clamped itself to the surface and a small tower rose up from its center.  It then began to drill downward into the planet, adding section after section of small diameter tubing and it continued onward.  Suddenly the drill hit what sounded to be metallic material, the Ancient and his pilot erupted in another round of cheers and weapons discharge.

The small drilling machine chugged and clanged and spun as it drilled to its maximum depth.  When it stopped, the Ancient passed his hand over a sensor pad and the drill reversed, removing a core sample as it retracted from the depths of the planet surface.

At first, the fleeting image of the pilot flying over the head of the Ancient didn’t register.  It was the thud of the pilot hitting the ground that got the Ancient’s attention.  The alien cocked its head trying to understand what had just happened, when he heard the growl of something terrible behind him.  The Ancient turned just in time to catch the full charge of a giant beast in his chest.  The Armor, just milliseconds before impact energized and kept the Ancient from dying.  The pilot, with no armor, was not so lucky.  He laid there moaning in pain from the force of the impact.

The beast turned towards the Ancient again and charged.  The Ancient stood up and leaned into the attack this time, with is fists clenched and legs bracing for impact.  The beast was stopped cold as it ran into a wall of force it was not expecting.  Staggering, the beast shook its head and then charged the pilot who was still down on the ground.  The hapless pilot was flung like a rag doll across the ground, and when the beast caught up to him again it bit down onto his torso, the pilot screaming in agony.

The Ancient ran for his weapon as the beast ran down the slope of the plateau.  With only seconds to spare, he pointed the weapon and the fleeing beast and discharged a beam of light, striking the beast in the hind quarters and disintegrating the rear half of the beast.  It fell and tumbled, with blood and internal organs flying everywhere.

The Ancient ran down to the unresponsive pilot.   He quickly picked up the bloody and broken body and carried it up the hill to the ship.  The Ancient placed the pilot into the front seat, then rushed back to get his core samples before jumping into the back seat and closing the canopy.  Without the pilot, the Ancient had to rely on the object to pilot them away from the area.  He asked the object to power up the scout ship, and the object complied.  He then asked the object to take them off the surface, but in the course of complying another beast came from behind and grabbed the tail section of the ship.  Its massive claws ripping at the skin of the ship, it began pounding on the surface of the ship.  With every impact the Ancient could hear more and more break loose from the innards of the fragile craft.

Again, he turned to the precious object, and with a simple command, the object burst forth an energy wave that split the ears of the attacking beast, causing it to let go.  The craft rose above the beast, and as it turned the Ancient could see that there were many more coming.

The Ancient asked the object to take them away from the area and the object complied.  He ran some diagnostics and determined that the ship was no longer space worthy.  He would have to find a place to land and judging from the readings the Ancient was getting; it would have to be soon.  He and his pilot would not be leaving this world.

The craft sped above the surface of the trees, pieces of its fragile skin fluttering in the wind as they raced to find a place to set down.  Suddenly, they were no longer over land; a large body of water was now below them.  Without warning, the craft began to shudder, and the readouts showed they only had a brief few moments left in the air.  Fearing the pilot already dead, the Ancient began accepting his fate, and began making peace with his alien deities.   Would the Gods of Qublillon welcome him and his brave pilot to the Crystal Shores of Gillonostra?  Or would he be frozen in time on the icy shores of the Bay of the Damned for not succeeding in his mission?

And then he saw the island.  It was a small, rocky island jutting up from the sea floor, but he would take it.  He asked the object to help guide his craft to the shores of the atoll.  The object obliged, but there was only so much it could do.

The craft fell short of the island, skipping across the water at a high rate of speed, and as it began to slow it started to catch the water.  Heading towards the cliff of the island, the Ancient braced for impact.  The ship came to rest on a small clump of rocks right on the shore.   When the Ancient was able to regain his senses, he could see that the canopy had broken loose, and the pilot had been thrown onto the shore.  Quickly, the Ancient got out of the seat, grabbed the object and went to his pilot.

The pilot, though still alive, was badly broken.  The Ancient knelt next to him and looked up and down the shore.  Noticing a cave entrance, he picked up the pilot and carried him towards the opening.

The pilot died that evening, next to a warm pool of spring water.  The Ancient placed the object under his arms and laid him on his side for eternal rest.  As he did so, the light in the object started to fade.  The Ancient looked at it in sadness.  Soon it too would be gone, and he would be left alone to fend off the beasts of this hostile planet.

When the final light of the object extinguished, the Ancient’s armor shed itself from its host.  The Ancient stood there holding it and admiring it.  It had been centuries since he had seen it outside of his body.  In the light of the cave, it was beautiful.  Walking to the side of the cave he set it against the wall and sat down to contemplate what his future would hold.  Sorrow filled his hearts and he was overwhelmed by the weight of his situation.  He would have no protection, no companionship, and no home to go back to.  He sat and awaited the journey to the icy shores of the Bay of the Damned.